A Demonstration of Art and What Matters…

                                      

I knew it was coming earlier this week, but I hadn’t truly noticed the January full moon until last night. A day plus late when it finally captured my attention during the normally darkest hours of the day. My bedroom was illuminated by the Wolf Moon at 2 a.m. this morning. I welcomed it as it gave purpose to my wakefulness. A symbolical compliment to yesterday’s personal enlightenment. I didn’t quite feel the need to howl but I did bask in the glow… 

I was scheduled to do an art demonstration at an art center in a neighboring state yesterday.  I was nervous as it had been a long while since I had done a demo and doing a virtual demo brought my anxiety just a tick higher. The temps frigid even by Vermont standards as I made my way down the road noticing a balmy 4 degrees on my car dashboard. Felt colder and probably was as my car had been in the garage overnight. I turned up the radio and let Bruce Springsteen transport me to my calmer self. A big ask since “my calmer self” doesn’t really exist. Shades of grey so to artistically speak. 

Hard to know what to expect these days when we do something outside of our socially distant lives as nothing feels as it once did. A certain amount of trepidation follows me wherever I go right now outside of my usual controlled environment and very few necessary errands. Each new situation feels like a potential virus land mine. The usual drill looms large. Will everyone be wearing a mask? How many people will be in the room? How far apart will we be? I look forward to the day when we can relax around what we once did “normally.” There is a lesson in that I realize. The pandemic has been nothing short of humbling and a reminder to not take anything for granted.  Life has a funny way of catching us all off guard.

The drive to the art center quickly passed while listening to a number of Bruce Springsteen songs and DJ chatter while callers discussed their favorite Bruce concert. I wish I could have weighed in as Springsteen played at Providence College when I was a student there in the late 70’s and there was no turning back after watching Bruce leap off the stage and into the audience while the sound of Clarence Clemons’ haunting saxophone disappeared off stage. The Boss he is but I digress. 

Artists at least this artist do not travel lightly. Unpacking my car fortunately close to the entrance of the art center took some planning and navigating as one trip was my preference with little time to dawdle in the cold. I had little patience for wrestling with a canvas as the cold wind wanted to make it a kite. I lumbered through the front heavy glass door resembling a pack mule as I was weighed down by paints, brushes, canvas and sundry provisions.  Greeted as I made my way through the front door by a lovely and friendly face who helped me navigate my way in and through the Covid precautions. I began to relax knowing I was amongst friends who are virus careful too. Art friends. I have missed my art friends as the frequency of gathering like all pandemic activities has been extremely limited at best. 

The studio where I was to perform the demonstration was of course upstairs. Laden down with bags cutting into my arms while balancing a 30 x 30 canvas I was also mindful of what variant of the virus was waiting for me in my assigned studio. Instead, I was met by two wonderful people that had worked hard to make this outreach program safely happen. I had forgotten how much I loved being in a large art classroom with high ceilings, creaking wood floorboards and forever windows. The sun heating the room as it filled it with light. Subzero with the wind chill factor outside but glorious indoors. My demo station was perfectly appointed with lights, table and cameras. I felt at home. I know this world. I remember this world. I so have missed this environment. Yes, it looked different because it is different. Somehow and in some way we three were working together and committed to share art this Friday morning with those safely in their homes and not attending in person. Unlike we once would have but determined we were to find a way to fill the morning with art. The smell of lingering paint from over the years was intoxicating in the best of possible ways. I soaked it all in and let my fears remain outside the studio door. I was still nervous, but the right kind of nerves prevailed. Appropriate. Adrenaline. Normal. I take what I do very seriously. I take sharing my work with those sacrificing their time to listen and observe what I do even more seriously. I want to be worthy of their investment of time. My father, a strong believer in work ethic often talked to me and my siblings about our responsibility to give 200% when asked to give 100% of ourselves.  I honor those words daily as it applies to nearly everything in life from parenting, to work, to athletics etc.…

Cameras were adjusted, the demo table prepared, my source material and supplies at the ready. We were ready. I tried to ignore the bigger than life image of myself that kept appearing on the large screen before me. What happened to my twenty-year-old self? Who the heck is that gal? Ehhh, let’s go! Art needs to happen with a large dose of color and fun. I had no idea if there was one or twenty, but it didn’t matter I was all in. We could see a few people and a local organization had already logged in and when the clock struck 10 a.m. we started. A lovely introduction by the head of the program and I was on. 

I could hear the nervousness in my voice. A stutter with a detection of a stammer but soon my focus and passion spilled out on the canvas. I encouraged questions as they help direct me, ground me so I don’t remain solely in my head and am able to share what participants are wanting from the hour. Wanting from me. Happily, the first question happened early on, and the hour flew as more chatter and more questions were entertained. I was joyous. I felt joy. I was working hard trying to complete this fairly large piece in the confines of an hour which didn’t happen, but a lot did happen. Good things happened. Joy happened. Smiles happened. Laughter was heard. Participants shared images of their work. Techniques were shared. Painting frustrations aired. Perfect. Joyous. The conversation of creating art was exhilarating. I was remembering why I do what I do. I needed just that as this past year has brought some very dark days. We eagerly agreed to continue past the allotted time. I don’t believe it had as much to do with the painting on my canvas or with me as much as it had to do with the shared warmth and sense of community we were experiencing. Community. Socializing. I had forgotten how important socializing is. Yes, we were virtual but connected by far more than WIFI. Artists. Currently, the painting sits unfinished on my easel, but a smile appears as I critique it while reflecting on yesterday’s lively group…pure joy!  

Bring your humanity to your art. Bring your art to humanity. Maxime Lagacé

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

2 thoughts

  1. This is a fabulous piece. I love how you captured the joy of being in an art space with other artists. I can’t wait to take a class with you some day!!!! Bravo.

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